Rachel M's Reviews > Royal Assassin

Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb
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's review
Mar 21, 2010

really liked it

If any complaint is made of this series, it is that there is a threadbare plot kept afloat with a surplus of words. While I can agree with this to some extent, I can't say that I would discard much (if any) of this book.
Fitz, now a young man, is faced with a kingdom under siege, both on its coasts and within the keep. Parallel to this struggle is the one inside himself, as he continues to decide who he is and what he wishes to be. Fitz is full of desires at war with each other, and the people around him continually push him to choose one or the other - either he can offer his life as a sacrifice for his king, or he can pursue his childhood love, Molly - either he can grow in developing the art of the Skill, or he can give in to his natural talent for the Wit.

The large question in this book, masterfully executed even if long, is that struggle between the self and the world at large. Do we exist only as parts of a whole, or ought we to assert ourselves as individuals? Many of the wishes closest to Fitz's heart are expressly against the interests of his kingdom, and I found that difficult. If he marries Molly, for instance, as he desires, he forgoes making a marriage that will make his kingdom stronger. I empathized with this character and grew frustrated when even his best friends coax him to choose against himself and the life he truly wants, every time.

The irony is that this same theme of the self vs. the world is at play within members of the royal family. King-in-Waiting Verity, loyal to his kingdom first, expends his energy until he has no time for his personal interests, leaving his inner world a mess while he fights larger battles on the outside. Meanwhile, his younger brother Regal, thinking of nothing but his own selfish ambitions to the throne, finds success even as he carelessly allows the kingdom to fall to ruin.

What a great theme to explore! So, why does the character who puts himself first, appear to win? And why do the self-sacrificing characters lose the things (and people) who are most important to them? And why am I left angry at the injustice of this? Personally, I think the book teaches that there must be a balance between the self and the outside world for there to be true peace. Now, the story is far from over, but I am really interested to see what happens in the third book.
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